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To Be an Extraordinary Student…

March, 2009
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incredible  Are you being extraordinary at school? Do you know an extraordinary student among your peers? What do you think makes an extraordinary student? A thousand people may give a thousand different answers to this question. However, in truth very few students end up being truly extraordinary, even though all students can be extraordinary in their own way if that is what they really want.

  Here are the stories of some students whom we think are extraordinary for what they have done.

  The most extraordinary thing Samantha Hu has ever done so far as a student is having a Chinese novel published. Samantha The book, titled “Ceng Jing Zai Yi Qi De Ri Zi” (Once When We Were Together), tells the story of a girl and her cousin.

  In fact, the novel is based on her own experience as a 13th grader at Harrow International School Beijing. Her cousin committed suicide two years ago just before his 18th birthday. It was this tragedy that inspired Samantha to write the story.

  “The book is about the contrast between the local Chinese education and the international one,” said Samantha. “It is about the contrast between family backgrounds, education, all those things… It is trying to explain how the two characters grow up under the same education system and the same environment, but end up differently.” Through the contrast of the two main characters, she wants to spread the message among all teenagers of her age: “don’t be too extreme.” She also hopes that teachers and parents can also read the book so that they have a better idea of how their kids really react to what they say and what they do to them.    

  Having her novel published has been a shining point in Samantha’s school life. When universities did interviews with her, they were impressed by the fact that she is already a published novel writer.

  In fact, the already published 200,000-word Chinese novel is only the first half of the story. Samantha is now working on the second half, which is expected to be finished before her graduation in June 2009.

“Following things that you have passion for will naturally lead you to be extraordinary without any extra effort,” she concluded.

  If “passion” is the key word for Samantha to become extraordinary, then “perseverance” is what Sarah Paw believes is the most important factor for being extraordinary.

Sarah Paw  Now a Grade 11 student at Yew Chung International School of Beijing, Sarah Paw won the first place in the junior category in ice skating in Singapore National Championships in 2007 and 2008. 

  Sarah became interested in ice skating after she came to Beijing in 2000. She has attended a lot of competitions, from smaller ones to big ones including a worldwide contest she participated in last year in the junior category. She is going back to Singapore to attend this year’s National Championships very soon. If she wins the first place again, it will be very helpful for her to reach her goal – to compete in the winter Olympics in 2010.

  Behind this  is someone who works really hard for their success. “I skate seven days a week, two hours a day,” said Sarah. “After school I will go home, eat dinner at 4 pm, and then go skating for two hours. I come home at 8:30 pm and I have to do my homework. So every day is like a cycle. It is very tiring.”

  With such a tight schedule, she has to “make time.” “My teachers always say if you don’t have time, then make some time. I often have to put this into practice, because I don’t have time to do everything. I have to skate for two hours, I have to do homework, and meanwhile I have to do a bunch of other things that IB requires… I don’t have time for other hobbies… except for skating.”

  “I think it’s extraordinary if you just keep doing what you are doing… Persevere,” she said. She also believes that the mentality of a person is vital to his/her success. “If you tell yourself you can do it, you can do it. Exactly like my skating. Sometimes when I am not so confident, I can’t even do something even if I actually can…You have to focus on what you are doing instead of thinking about others.”

Monique  Monique Brown, in Grade 10 at Beijing BISS International School, believes that people are extraordinary because of their attitude.

  “I think what makes a person extraordinary is not how smart they are,” said Monique. “Many times why people are extraordinary is decided by their attitude. My dad always tells me that it does not matter how smart you are, it depends on how motivated, focused, and how much you want to do something.”

  Currently Monique is working on her MYP personal project – a charity concert scheduled on March 12. Featuring eight student bands from different international schools in Beijing, the concert is designed to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in China, with the concert income donated to an NGO that works with people affected by HIV/AIDS. The idea came from a conference Monique attended, where one of the topics was HIV/AIDS, and she spoke with a lady who talked about the problem.

  “Basically I want all teenagers to know this is a serious problem in China,” she said. Apart from knowing more about HIV/AIDS, the process of organizing the concert also helped Monique with her confidence, because she had to go and talk with companies for sponsorship.

  “It was kind of awkward and difficult in a way because we are students. When I walked through the doors and into the offices, the people were quite surprised that I was only 16, and I don’t think they can believe we can do it.” But still, Monique tried and did manage to get sponsorship for the concert.Qu zhi

  “An extraordinary student should be brave, confident, and be able to do what most people think would be impossible to do at such a young age,” believes Kerry Qu, a 17 year old girl studying at Beijing Huijia Private School’s IB High School Department.

  When she was 9 years old, Kerry participated in the National-wide English Contest and won the 3rd prize. Some time after that, a CCTV-12 Children’s Program invited her to be the host for a news program. She remains the host until now.

  “This experience gave me maturity, taught me how to be a good person, and how to communicate. Also, it made me accept that there will always be people better than you out there, and you can’t compare your disadvantages with other people’s advantages. You have to be satisfied with what you have, and try your best,” said Kerry.

  Having been working for years as a host, Kerry has come to love the profession. Her future plan is to go into the media, be a host or maybe specialize in advertisement. “I plan to study abroad, preferably in the USA, and then come back to China to work.” Kerry considers Oprah Winfrey and Chen Lu Yu as her role models. “They are both very charismatic hosts. They communicate well with the audience and ask provocative questions. I love their shows.” Is it important to have role models who have usually done quite extraordinary things?

  Maybe, or maybe not.

Tiantian  “I won’t see somebody as a role model, but it is important to notice what other people are doing is good and do it as well,” said Tiantian Zha, Grade 12 at International School of Beijing (ISB). “If one can notice how impressive somebody is and what makes him/her impressive, one can apply it to his/her own life.”

  Tiantian herself was influenced by a friend who was two grades above her at ISB. Joining Roots & Shoots in Grade 9 was one of the results of such influence. Since 10th grade Tiantian has been a highly energetic leader  of the Roots & Shoots group in the school. She was granted the Community Service Leadership Award at the end-of-year assembly in grade 10. In Tiantian’s experience with Roots & Shoots, what matters most for her is the paper recycling project that she initiated in October last year.

  Under the project, Tiantian and other Roots & Shoots members collect used paper every week. They persuaded the people in charge of a frequently-used printer to feed the printer with the collected paper. The printer goes through five hundred sheets of paper a week. By using already-used paper, Tiantian’s project saves five hundred sheets of paper a week. In the future the project will expand to more printers in the school, once there is a greater supply of paper. In addition, Tiantian and her partners also want to increase students’ awareness, because some people still don’t want to print on used paper, reckoning it is not as pretty.

  “That’s something that we are trying to change.” This project may not sound like the most impressive, but it is something that Tiantian is most proud of, because she wanted to make a difference with it and finally has done so. It also matches well with the Roots and Shoot philosophy that small things can make a difference when added up together.

  Like Tiantian Zha, ISB 12th grader Hae Bin Kim also does great social work.

Kim-ISB2  In November 2007, Kim started a program called “Empowerment through Self-Esteem and Education (ESEE),” which tries to help children from low-income Chinese families increase their self-esteem through various activities. The idea came after she volunteered and taught English in summer 2007 at a caring centre for lower-income families in Seoul. She found out that the students were improving at a slow rate although they seemed to be working very hard and were enthusiastic about what they were learning. A social worker told her it’s probably because children from low-income families have less self-esteem, feel less confident about themselves, and then tend to doubt themselves. Because they doubt themselves for a long time, they tend to lose the chance to maximize their potential.

  After she came back to Beijing, she worked out a proposal for ESEE, with the help of her teachers. The program’s first partner institution was the Sun Village, an orphanage for children of prisoners in Beijing. Every time she and her partners had a new idea for activities, they brought the idea to their psychology teacher to make sure that it would be effective. One of the activities they did was during the Christmas and Spring Festival. Kim brought her laptop to the school and downloaded a program for the kids there to design their Christmas or new-year cards, which they could later send to their parents. The kids were very excited to do such a thing for their parents. Hae Bin hoped that by doing this they could increase their self-esteem and self-worth.

  For Kim, those extra-curricular projects do not affect her academic activities at all, because she just loves doing them. She finds a way to create a balance between her academic and extra-curricular activities. “It is important to make sure that what you learn at school feeds through extra-curricular activities. For example, at psychology classes, I learnt something about conformity, or self-esteem, or confidence, and then I went home and did some research to see how I could apply that to ESEE. I actually learn better by doing that.”

  Kim has developed a deep interest in issues related to development and poverty. “After college and getting a degree, I would like to be a social entrepreneur, who works for developing countries, like China.”

  To be an extraordinary student, Kim believes one needs to be always learning from others, and that you have to acknowledge that things can go wrong and not discouraged by it. “Like what you do, feel passionate… if you love something you do and persevere, you will get to what you want yourself to be.”

  For Fred Taeyoon Kim, whether a student is extraordinary or not depends on how people look at him/her.

Fred Fred is in Grade 11 at the Canadian International School of Beijing (CISB) and is the president of the student council in the school. He had been the vice president and secretary of the council in previous years. Last year he decided to run for the presidency to take on more responsibility. His ambition is to bring the school together and make all teachers and students feel more friendly, alive and contented.

  One of the achievements he and his team have had recently was the winter carnival week on campus in mid February, with various activities going on every school day. Being the president has helped Fred to develop a sense of responsibility and leadership.

  “You have to know when to step in, when to step out and learn what you are responsible for. So when I am out in society, I will be ready for what I am responsible for,” he said.

  Fred does not consider himself an extraordinary student in the school. He believes that all students have their own strengths, and it is just that his lies in being confident and being comfortable talking in front of audiences..

  “Some people may think I am extraordinary because I give help to them. But other people may not think so because I do not give them help,” he said. Therefore in his opinion, everybody can be extraordinary to somebody.

  So, how are you going to be extraordinary at school?

 By Qin Chuan Contributions from Rena.

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  1. March 22nd, 2010 at 16:52 | #1